I Have a POWER ANIMAL

You know in Fight Club, when Ed Norton is a raging insomniac and keeps attending all these support groups for diseases he doesn’t have because the crying and hugging helps him sleep? And how at one of them he has a vision of his Power Animal, which turns out to be a penguin that is all cute and probably in the imagery of the film totally symbolizes being a slave to the Man? Well, I have identified my own power animal.

I discovered this while visualizing a deep well in my body. But wait. Let me explain.

I experienced three-pronged distress meltdown last night, which burst to the surface of my consciousness around 9:30 PM CST:

Prong 1: My new therapist? Has not impressed at all me thus far. (Although I guess I should thank her for inadvertently introducing me to my power animal.) I pinned all my hopes on this particular therapy working for me (I have tried so many, many times before) and although I haven’t said much about it, I have been feeling pretty upset about how things are going.

Prong 2: I’m supposed to be taking the GRE in a week and a half. At some point this weekend I realized that it wasn’t going to happen and it was all my fault because I was too paralyzed to even begin studying the Math. I am all over the Words. But the Math is but a fleeting high-school memory to my now 31-year-old brain. I got psyched out, blew off studying, and now I need to cancel my test appointment because I refuse to bomb the thing. What this means, in terms of my cognitively distorted mind: I will never ever go to graduate school. Big fail.

Prong 3: The diet. Ahhhhh, the diet. Saw this one coming, didn’t you? Yes, I’ve been sticking like glue to my new Weight Watchers food plan, which I initiated on Monday. But I am not sold on everything WW teaches. I never have been. A lot of the guidelines are very sound common sense. But I . . . I think we should be eating more food. Or at least I should. Last night I fell into the merciless deprivation mindset. It’s like having a screaming, Banshee-wailing two-year-old lying on the floor kicking and red-faced . . . in your BRAIN. Get out get out get out!! I hate that kid.

As I snifflingly discussed these various dilemmas last night, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I need to slow down and take on fewer demons at a time. Slowly.

Slowly? To me a thing isn’t worth doing unless it can be done in a blur of procrastination-induced hyperactivity!

Slowly. That word. It reminded me of the one not-totally-disappointing part of my last meeting with my therapist: the mindfulness exercise. It’s not worth paying $110 a week for, but it did involve the counselor hitting a metal bowl, gong-style, and me picturing a deep well inside of me. Evidently this well is where my Wise Mind resides. Because I had to picture hanging out in this well for a good 5 minutes, and I got kind of tired of looking at the wall of the well and the water and all, I decided I wanted company in the well, and that the company would be a turtle. MY POWER ANIMAL, REVEALED!

I was very pleased to have the turtle in my wise-mind well with me, although I started to get worried that he would drown if he couldn’t go up for air soon, a concern that put a slight dent in me communing with my awareness of the moment.

The turtle is a common metaphor for sensible weight loss. But the truth is I have always had an affinity for turtles. Maybe because they resemble my zodiac sign, the delightful and pinchy crab, in that they have a safe shell to retreat to in times of trouble. I even had a pet turtle for several years in my early 20s. She was liberated on Cinco de Mayo, 2001, on the same day a man flashed me and my roommate in Central Park, but that’s a whole other story.

That being said, at some point during a conversation last night, I realized that it is perfectly okay for me to lose weight slowly. Like, even at a glacially slow pace. If I eat more (relatively healthful) food, it may actually be a great thing for my metabolism and the weight-loss will zip right along. Or it may very well be that I lose less than a pound a week. It could take me two years to lose the weight. Is this okay?

Deep breath. Yes. Yes, it is. Turtles are stubborn, and slow, and tough, and so am I.

This year I will not worry about graduate school or career (non)goals. This year I will not worry about finally saving some money; as long as I stay out of debt that’s acceptable. A car can wait. So can the advanced degree.

What can’t wait is working on my mental and physical health, making those the priority while at the same time being patient and compassionate with myself during the process. I’m going to visit a new therapist next week. I’m going to stick with a (modified, Liz-personalized) version of Weight Watchers (take what works and leave the rest) and keep attending the group meetings. The rest can wait. Tiny turtle knows this is all good, and so do I.

tiny-turtle

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6 Responses

  1. “To me a thing isn’t worth doing unless it can be done in a blur of procrastination-induced hyperactivity!”

    OMG, this is so me too. I got through school that way. I’d like to say I stopped and now everything is now ok, but there is nothing like the thrill and pressure of a deadline breathing down your neck. I thrive on them.

    And I pretty much went your route – gave up a really influential position for a less prestigious one to give myself the ability to really dedicate myself to my health until it just became second nature. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  2. Quix: Wow, it’s so nice to hear from someone who has put this strategy into practice! And yeah, for some reason deadlines/crises tend to be the times when I perform my best, too. As far as the other 99% of the time? Ummm…. I got nothing.

  3. I really would look into something other than WW. Sure, it’s popular. And sure people swear it’s the only thing that works for them — each and every time they try it. But if you’re already having doubts, this might not be your turtle path.

  4. Haha, I’ve always been a fan of the snail myself! Great post. The slower you lose weight, the hard it will be to put it back on.

    But about the math… I actually have my BS and MS in math. So if you need any help, you know how to find me. =)

  5. Charlie: You may be right. The main thing I’m going for is the weekly meeting and weigh-in. I wish their were other weight-loss options that involved regular group meetings (other that OA, which is a bit of a different thing).

    Monica: Wow, I’m impressed! The GRE math is actually not at a very advanced level (no calculus); my main problem is I no longer have various quadratic equations and geometry formulas memorized. Gah!

  6. […] Liz found her power animal this week: it’s a turtle, which she reminds me is “a common metaphor for sensible weight loss.” …it is perfectly okay for me to lose weight slowly. Like, even at a glacially slow pace. If I eat more (relatively healthful) food, it may actually be a great thing for my metabolism and the weight-loss will zip right along. Or it may very well be that I lose less than a pound a week. It could take me two years to lose the weight. Is this okay? […]

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